The pro-life group Susan B. Anthony List on Wednesday hailed the "historic moment in the fight to protect women and children from abortion."
"We’re excited to see the Heartbeat Act save lives starting today and stand with our allies on the front lines serving mothers and families,” said the group's president Marjorie Dannenfelser.
Under Texas’ law, doctors are required to check for a fetal heartbeat before performing an abortion.
Private citizens may sue because of illegal abortions, and can take legal action against anyone who performs an illegal abortion or who “knowingly engages in conduct that aids or abets” an illegal abortion, “including paying for or reimbursing the costs of abortion through insurance or otherwise.” Lawsuits can also be brought against anyone who “intends to engage” in performing or assisting an illegal abortion.
Successful lawsuits against could net at least $10,000 in damages, plus court and attorney fees.
The group Texas Right to Life created a website to receive tips on alleged illegal abortions, to help facilitate legal action. According to Spectrum News 1, some activists sought to flood the website with false tips or extraneous information.
On Tuesday, the Travis County court in Texas issued a temporary restraining order, preventing Texas Right to Life and its legislative director from filing lawsuits under the law against three specific plaintiffs.
“Texas Right to Life never threatened to sue these specific plaintiffs,” the group stated of the order.
The law goes into effect as the Supreme Court is set to hear a critical abortion case this term in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization. In that case, the court will consider Mississippi's restrictions on most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, and will decide the question of “Whether all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional?”
"With the Dobbs case on the horizon, we hope that the Court is finally ready to let this debate move forward democratically, restoring the right of states to protect our most vulnerable brothers and sisters," Dannenfelser stated on Wednesday.
This article was updated with new information on Sept. 1.
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Matt Hadro was the political editor at Catholic News Agency through October 2021. He previously worked as CNA senior D.C. correspondent and as a press secretary for U.S. Congressman Chris Smith.